Of late, we’ve discovered Nantucket, for over 100 years a favorite summer retreat for the well-heeled and their families.
Now we know why those families keep coming back. Located 30 miles off Massachusett’s coast, the island offers award-winning resorts, fine restaurants, exciting nightlife, yachting, beachcombing, golf, tennis—and amazingly well-preserved Early American architecture (In fact, over 800 pre-Civil War buildings and homes still stand).
Despite its upscale reputation, the destination has a casual, beach vibe. And because it’s’s small—and flat—it’s relatively easy to get around. You won’t find stoplights, neon signs, or national chain stores and restaurants here. You will, however, discover historic homes (nearly all dressed in uniform grey shingles), cobblestone streets, unique shops and beautiful beaches. Best of all, the people are low-key and friendly. In case you don’t know (i.e., you haven’t read Moby Dick) Nantucket was considered, in the early-to-mid-1800s, the whaling capital of the world. The eponymous town’s Whaling Museum can keep you enthralled for hours learning about the whaling process and viewing artifacts that date to those days. Today, of course, the island relies on tourism to sustain its economy.
The best places to stay include the iconic White Elephant Hotel and sister properties The Wauwinet, (a renovated Victorian-era hotel 9 miles northeast of town) and the Jared Coffin House, a historic antique-filled inn in the heart of town. At the White Elephant, right on the harbor, you can ask the concierge to arrange a Hinkley yacht, stocked with wine, champagne and snacks, to take you on a tour around the island or over to nearby Martha’s Vineyard for the afternoon.
Don’t miss dining at the White Elephant’s Brant Point Grill and The Wauwinet’s Topper’s , considered one of New England’s best restaurants. (It only takes one bite to figure that out for yourself.)
Although it’s fun to visit in July or August, the height of the season, we suggest you book a room during the less-crowded shoulder seasons.
If you’re planning a visit, check out the following:
Short flights and ferries take visitors from Hyannis, Massachusetts. Additionally, major airlines offer direct flights from New York City (various airports), Boston and Washington, D.C.
Excellent Dining Options
Black-Eyed Susan’s: For large homemade omelets, buttermilk pancakes and “scrambles” (the “Portuguese Scramble” has linguica, tomatoes, spinach and garlic). Get there early since there’s always a line, especially for Saturday morning breakfast.
The Nautilus: For craft cocktails, seafood small plates (charred Spanish octopus, yellowfin tuna lettuce wraps, crispy marinated calamari, and much more). In high season, you may have to reserve a tablein in early afternoon (in person!) for dinner.
Cru: For a seafood raw bar and main courses such as butter-poached lobster and grilled Wester Ross salmon. Both the restaurant and two lively bars overlook Nantucket’s waterfront.
The Chanticleer: For main courses such as New Zealand lamb, tenderloins and Maine diver scallops. Originally a teahouse, this romantic French restaurant in the town of Sconset is situated among beautiful gardens.
Cisco Brewers: For food truck snacks, beer, wines and spirits. This combination winery, brewery and distillery offers tours and live music.
Shops & Galleries
Sylvia Antiques: Established in 1927, this top source for antiques offers marine artifacts, folk art, lightship baskets, carvings, sculptures and other rare items.
Artists Association of Nantucket: The association’s Washington Street gallery showcases the work of local artists and offers educational programs for both children and adults.
Peter Beaton Hat Studio: Owner Darcy Creech sells custom-fitted hats and totes made from finely braided leghorn straw.
Murray’s Toggery Shop: You’ll find New England apparel and accessories for men and women, including the iconic Nantucket Reds, pants originally made of a red canvas material meant to fade over time.
Nantucket Looms: This store sells quality apparel and accessories, luxury home décor and special-occasion gifts.
Hostetler Gallery: Paintings and sculptures by the late artist David Hostetler and others grace the gallery’s spaces and walls.
Craftmasters of Nantucket: The shop offers quality home décor, accessories, belts and buckles, knives and scrimshaw with nautical themes.